As the first black person to integrate her high school in Tarboro, North Carolina, Janice Bryant Howroyd learned at an early age the pains associated with an unsupportive environment. But the experience was a defining moment for Howroyd, and it inspires her daily to help temporary and permanent workers find the most supportive working environments through her multimillion-dollar employment services empire. Since its inception in 1978, the Torrance, California-based ACT-1 Group (No. 3 on the 2004 BLACK ENTERPRISE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $520 million in sales) and largest company on the list headed by a woman, has grown from a single office with a desk and phone to 90 offices across the country. The company has multiple divisions that provide services such as recruitment, employment placement, and training to such corporate clients such as Ford Motor Co., Sempra Energy, and the Gap. You just might be her next client.
2. Harold Ford, U.S. Representative (D-Tenn.)
Serving his fifth term, Harold Ford continues to gain momentum in the political arena. He has built his reputation by applying fresh ideas to the challenges of the 21st century, building coalitions and making bold moves. He holds seats on both the powerful House Budget and Financial Services committees. Next stop: Ford has his sights on a run for the U.S. Senate in 2006.
3. Mellody Hobson, President, Ariel Capital Management
Mellody Hobson joined Ariel Capital Management Inc. (No. 1 on the 2004 BLACK ENTERPRISE ASSET MANAGERS list with $16.11 billion under management) at age 21, still a wet-behind-the-ears intern. Now, she steers the direction of the investment management firm. As president of Ariel, Hobson is responsible for firmwide management, overseeing virtually all of the company's operations, except research and portfolio management.
4. Alfred C. Liggins III, CEO, Radio One
Alfred Liggins has been spearheading new business ventures for Radio One Inc. (No. 8 on the 2004 BLACK ENTERPRISE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE 100 list with $344.7 million in sales), the seventh-largest radio broadcasting company and the largest targeting African-American and urban listeners. As CEO, he took the company public in 2000 and engineered the expansion of Radio One which operates 69 radio stations in 22 urban markets. Most recently, the company entered into a deal with cable giant Comcast Corp. to form TV One L.L.C., a cable network targeted at African-American viewers, which along with similar networks, is providing an alternative to Black Entertainment Television.
5. Paula Madison, President & General Manager, KNBC
Paula Madison believes there’s an art to news reporting: facts, integrity, passion, and making a connection with the audience. That’s why the once self-acknowledged print snob never thought she would wind up in television. She considered it fluff; lacking the grit and substance she pursued first as an investigative bureau reporter for the Forth Worth Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, Texas, and then as an assistant city editor for the Dallas Times Herald. But her work ethic and passion for news made her an attractive recruit for broadcasting.
She joined NBC’s New York station in 1989 as assistant news director. In 1999, as vice president and news director, she led NBC to first place in November sweeps for all local newscasts — a first for the station in 16 years. Today, Madison admits she absolutely loves television. And she’s still winning sweeps — now in L.A. as president and general manager of KNBC (this past November, the station retained first place for the 11 p.m. news broadcast). Madison is also regional manager for NBC/Telemundo stations KVEA and KWHY. Los Angeles is No. 2 for general market television viewers in the nation, but No. 1 for the Hispanic market. “When I’m asked how [I got] to this point, I always say you have to agree with the principles and goals of your company. If you don’t, you’re always going to look for the next company to be in love with.”
6. James McLurkin, Research Scientist
As NASA launched two Mars rovers during the summer of 2003, James McLurkin, a graduate student at MIT's computer science and artificial intelligence lab, toiled on something bigger: programming 4.5 inch microbots to carry out cooperative tasks, including exploring the Red Planet. As senior lead research scientist on the Swarm project for iRobot, McLurkin developed the robots to emulate bees, with the ability to cluster, disperse, and orbit. "Swarms of robots are the future," says McLurkin. "Robots will become more useful, and, as they do, many of the tasks they are good at multiple robots will do better." Prepare to go “back to the future” with this talented research scientist.
7. Aaron McGruder, Comic Strip Creator
Since its syndication in 1999, The Boondocks, a daily comic strip focusing on the lives of two young black boys living in white suburbia, has satirized everything from the policies of President George W. Bush to Black Entertainment Television. It has become one of the most successful comic strips ever, appearing in more than 350 news publications worldwide. Aaron McGruder recently inked several deals that will launch his creation to new heights. The Boondocks has transcended print journalism and can be found on the covers of books, emblazoned as art on T-shirts, animated in a television pilot, and will eventually be projected onto the silver screen.
8. Don Thompson, Executive Vice President, COO, McDonald’s USA
Don Thompson has spent the last 15 years working for the world renowned fast food chain that is home to the Big Mac. In February, he was recognized by BLACK ENTERPRISE as one of the Top 75 Most Powerful Blacks in Corporate America. But just as the issue hit the newsstands, this 42-year-old was promoted to executive vice president and chief operations officer of McDonald's USA. In his new role, Thompson oversees the company's U.S. field operations and says he will focus on intensifying their already aggressive focus on operational excellence and leadership marketing to bring an even higher level of quality, service, cleanliness, and value to their guests. Follow Thompson’s rise as McDonald USA’s new COO.
9. Clarence Otis, CEO Darden Restaurants
When Clarence Otis worked as a waiter to help pay his way through Stanford University Law School, little did he know that one day he would control some of the largest restaurant chains in the world. Named to the post in December 2004, Otis is CEO of Darden Restaurants, which owns and operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze, and Smokey Bones BBQ & Grill.
The seasoned executive runs a mammoth operation with more than 1,300 outlets and 140,000 employees who serve 300 million meals a year. Otis was part of the leadership that helped Darden make the transition from an operating division to a stand-alone company when it was spun off from General Mills in 1995. He says his job is one of talent management — picking the right people to handle details. Otis focuses on the big picture: maintaining Darden’s position as a global leader in the casual dining industry and keeping competitors such as Outback Steakhouse, Applebee’s, and Chili’s from chomping into its market share.
Despite earning a mouthwatering $231 million on $5 billion in sales for fiscal year 2004, Otis must contend with some rather daunting challenges — like the turnaround of the Red Lobster chain, the 681-unit flagship that has failed to meet customer expectations in service and menu selection. He says, “No matter what a person’s level or function is within a company, he or she needs to understand the basics — how that company makes money.” As one of the newest African American Fortune 500 CEOs, Otis is definitely one to watch.
10. Charles E. Phillips Jr., Co-President & Director, Oracle
A former Marine captain, Charles Phillips went into combat as soon as he enlisted at Oracle, the $9.5 billion software company. He was on the front lines of an 18-month battle for rival software company PeopleSoft Inc. Oracle completed the $10.3 billion merger, one of last year’s most publicized and hostile takeovers, with PeopleSoft accepting a $26.50-per share buyout.
Achieving such triumphs has enabled this digerati to emerge as a powerhouse within his organization and the industry. A member of Oracle’s board of directors, he’s responsible for the field operations of the bellwether tech giant. In fact, Oracle’s entire strategy revolves around information — helping governments and businesses become more effective at managing and securing data.
Before joining Oracle as executive vice president in 2003, Phillips spent nine years with Morgan Stanley and rose to the position of managing directors of enterprise and Internet software. In 1994, Phillips was ranked the No. 1 enterprise software industry analyst by Institutional Investor magazine and named one of BE’s Top African Americans on Wall Street in 2002.
Phillips holds a B.S. in computer science from the U.S. Air Force Academy, an M.B.A. in finance from Hampton University, and a J.D. from New York University Law School. As a result of his experiences, his business and personal philosophies are intertwined: “Having a passion for what you do, being technically prepared all the time, and having a willingness to take risks are the kinds of things that I have always believed in — whether in business or as an officer in the Marine Corps.” Now that you’re plugged in to Phillips’ success, keep an eye out for him in the future.
Black Enterprise is the premier business news source for African-Americans. Since 1970, the magazine has chronicled the growth of the black business market, providing essential business information and advice for professionals, corporate executives, entrepreneurs and decision-makers. For more information log on to www.blackenterprise.com.